10 beauty brand founders share the career advice that shaped their way to success

Words of wisdom

March 07 2022

Every time International Women’s Day rolls around, we’re left in awe of the achievements of so many. We’re so proud to work in an industry that embraces largely female-led brands and companies and look forward to celebrating it every year.

Beauty is so often thought of as a frivolous business but behind your favourite serums and eyeshadows, there’s often an entire team of powerhouse women making their mark on the world.

And because we find them so damn inspiring, we asked a few founders to share the career advice that got them where they are today. Plus, what they’d tell their past selves if they got the chance.

Samantha Brett, founder of Naked Sundays

Best career advice: From a very young age, I was always told that the world is a very small place and that anything is possible. I really have carried through this advice with me for my entire career and always thought that anything was possible, so I never take no for an answer. Where there's a will there's a way. It just takes lots of late nights and strong coffee! 

What you would tell your past self: I would tell myself that competitors and copycats are nothing to be afraid of. That if I just stick in my lane and continue on my path forward, they will slowly disappear into the rearview mirror. And not to get so hung up on the small stuff!'

Joanne Zhong, founder of Aceology

Best career advice: The best advice I have been given is that “You are only as good as your team.” Your business's success is not just dependent on you, but it is a collective result of your team’s efforts. Each team member should have the skills and talents that you don’t have, and they are able to fill the gaps and roles in the company that you simply can't do. It is also important to create a positive working environment where your team can flourish. 

What you would tell your past self: I would tell myself that building a business can be tough and it is important to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally for the ups and downs. Running a company has incredibly rewarding moments but it can also have those stressful moments that can cloud your judgement. I would tell myself to do my best to separate emotion from the business and to not take the low moments so personally.

Jess Hatzis, co-founder of Frank Body

Best career advice: “You are worth whatever price you put on yourself “ my grandpa taught me that.

What you would tell your past self: I wouldn't give myself advice per se, or change anything I did, ultimately it all led me here. But I wish I had been slightly more prepared for what was to come. So I guess I'd tell myself: "Get ready for the ride of your life, kid.”

Rachael Tyers, founder of tbh Skincare

Best career advice: Embrace your naivety. As a young female founder, I think there are a lot of things that I don’t know and am yet to learn, but I come to work with enthusiasm, optimism and curiosity, and I think that makes me good at what I do. If I knew everything that was ahead when I entered into tbh Skincare, I probably would have been too jaded to go out there and do it. I think the best advice I have ever received, actually in one of the books I have read, is to lean into that, and embrace your naivety. There are many people out there who become sceptical and weary from their past experiences, and I think this holds people back from throwing caution to the wind and grabbing onto opportunities that come their way. I think there is something so beautiful about embracing your naivety, and then being ready to learn along the way.

What you would tell your past self: I would probably say “what the hell are you thinking”! But in all seriousness, I would tell myself to stick to my gut instincts and trust my intuition. It has been the one thing that has really guided me through the experience and I really should have trusted myself more in the early stages. I am still learning to do it now.

Dr Tarj Mavi, founder of LAMAV

Best career advice: Be patient, be resilient and believe in yourself! It’s important to recognise that while everyone’s journey to launching their brand or business is different, [and] no matter what you set out to do, it’s going to take a huge amount of dedication, self-determination and patience. It’s also essential to maintain your self-belief at every step of the way as you will not only face challenges within your business, but from external factors and stakeholders, too — so you need to be able to believe in yourself, even when things aren’t quite going to plan.

What you would tell your past self: That it will all work out in the end! There were certainly many times I had to step back, take a deep breath and reconnect with my vision and purpose for launching LAMAV — but I knew that I had a great idea and that other women would resonate with what I was working hard to create.

Arabella Preston, co-founder of Votary London

Best career advice: To ask for help and not overthink every career move you make. Very often the leaps of faith you make turn out to be the most defining moments in your career. 

What you would tell your past self: I would tell myself to enjoy the ride, accept the stress and do more yoga!

Nicole Eckels, founder of Glasshouse Fragrances

Best career advice: I've lived by these beliefs since starting my business 15 years ago: business is like whitewater, don’t ever expect it to be smooth sailing – and remember there is always a way in, a way over, a way around, or a way through. With this in mind you can calmly deal with the challenges that arise all the time because you expected them in the first place.

What you would tell your past self: Great people are the key to having a great business. I am blessed to be surrounded with a group of incredibly talented and dedicated people at Glasshouse Fragrances. You can’t build a business by yourself so choosing the right people is critical.

Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef

Best career advice: Someone once told me that success is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, and it really stuck with me. I truly believe that you should do what you love, because success requires hard work, so you might as well spend the hard work doing something you wholeheartedly enjoy. Plus, you are bound to be more successful doing something that you have fire, passion and drive for. 

What you would tell your past self: The first thing would be that saying no is sometimes just as powerful as saying yes, so it’s important to follow your gut instinct when making crucial decisions. No one really knows your business or career path like you do.

Charlotte Knight, founder of Ciaté London and Skin Proud

Best career advice: When you have been in the driving seat controlling all aspects of the business for a reasonable time, it feels alien to allow someone to take over some responsibility and some of the decision-making. But as Steve Jobs so wisely said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people to tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. Surrounding myself with exceptional, seasoned talent in all aspects of the business has allowed me to hire and grow the team with confidence.

What you would tell your past self:  In business, no matter how hard you try to avoid them, mistakes do happen. You’ve just got to make sure you learn from them. A good way to do so is to surround yourself with seasoned mentors who can be your sounding board and go-to as you plan your adventure into the business world. You need to be able to take a step back and get the bigger picture and the best place to start is to listen – to your mentors, those around you and on your team but also at the wider industry. Listen to what your customer wants  – they are the ones that are leading the charge and changing the game, make sure you are listening to them and keeping up!

Priscilla Hajiantoni, founder of Bangn Body

Best career advice: Never settle and always go with your gut! Stay true to your 'WHY' and never waiver from it. 

What you would tell your past self: I would tell myself that everything will be ok. To just remember to focus on what's most important and to try to take it all in and enjoy every day. Being in business at such a fast pace, you sometimes forget to enjoy the journey.

Main image credit: Supplied

Looking to start a career in beauty? Read about how Bridget Bond landed her dream job at MECCA.